Butter chicken vs Tikka masala: What’s the difference?

February 16, 2024 (Last Updated: February 17, 2024)
Butter chicken vs Tikka Masala

Regarded as popular Indian dishes, butter chicken and tikka masala are both guaranteed favourites for many. While both have rich and creamy sauces, what really sets these two hearty dishes apart?

Let’s explore the differences between butter chicken and tikka masala

What is butter chicken?

The traditional name of Butter Chicken was murgh makhani. Butter chicken is the most popular Indian dish ordered in restaurants, and similar to Tikka Masala, chunks of chicken are simmered in a yoghurt and tomato sauce. It is creamy, and buttery of course.

Butter chicken


What is tikka masala?

Tikka masala, a popular Indian dish in India and abroad, is made with chicken tikka—pieces of chicken marinated in spices (including chilli powder, cumin, and coriander), grilled or broiled—that are then stewed in a creamy tomato-based sauce.

Tikka chicken


  • Taste: Butter chicken charms with its milder, creamier taste, while Tikka Masala tends to lean more toward a spiciness, earthiness, and a tangy kick.
  • Cooking method: Butter chicken involves marination, tandoor grilling or roasting, and a simmer in a butter-infused tomato gravy. Tikka Masala blends tandoori chicken with a tomato-cream sauce flavoured with aromatic spices.
  • Ingredients: While both feature chicken, the spice blends and sauces set them apart. Butter chicken boasts garam masala, ginger, garlic, chilli powder, and turmeric, with cream, butter, and tomato puree. Tikka Masala makes use of cumin, coriander, paprika, and garam masala, with cream, tomato, and onion.
  • Colour: Butter Chicken flaunts a reddish-orange hue, courtesy of tomato paste, cream, and spices. In contrast, Tikka Masala shines with a brighter red tint, getting its colour from tomato puree, cream, and spices.
  • Sweetness: Butter Chicken leans towards sweetness, thanks to cream and a hint of sugar. Meanwhile, Tikka masala strikes a balance with a slightly sour and tangy note, countering the sweetness.
  • Nutrition: Both are indulgent, but Butter Chicken packs more calories and fat due to its creamy base. On the sodium front, Tikka Masala takes the lead with canned tomato puree.
  • Spiciness: Tikka Masala brings the heat with chilli powder, cumin, and spices, making it spicier than the milder Butter Chicken, which features just a touch of chilli powder.

ALSO SEE: Get the low down on ground coffee vs. instant coffee

Get the low down on ground coffee vs. instant coffee

Feature image: Pexels

Send this to a friend